• Cinde Ingram

Viking Casual Furniture founder Marvin Weiss dies

CHERRY HILL, N.J. – Marvin Weiss, 85, founder of Viking Casual Furniture in Cherry Hill, N.J., died of a heart attack on Monday, June 30, at Vintua Hospital in Marlton, N.J.

Born in Camden, N.J., Weiss was a businessman who began his working career as a 12-year-old paperboy for the Courier Post. He was paid 2 cents for the newspapers he delivered, earning a penny profit on each. He later delivered groceries for American Stores, Acme’s parent company. In 1955, Weiss opened his first business, a discount toy store called Toy Riot.

"He was a self-made man, he started his business in 1955 in the toy business and he had the concept of selling everything - toys, tools, housewares - for 88 cents," said Rose Weiss, his wife of 53 years and business partner. A competitor came in and sold the same sort of stock for 68 cents, Rose said, so they began selling rattan and redwood furniture.

In 1965, Marvin and Rose sold off all the toys and founded Viking Casual Furniture. “When he started, it was just a redwood table and two benches,” Rose said. She recalled when strap and folding furniture as well as stamped aluminum were introduced to the marketplace. Marvin Weiss would unload Meadowcraft furniture from railroad cars during the early days of selling those lines. Viking began selling Telescope Casual Furniture in the 1950s, she said.

“We have Telescope invoices dating back to 1958,” said their son Stuart Weiss, who now operates the store with his wife Maureen. Stuart, who began attending the Casual Market in Chicago when he was 13 years old, described his father as a pioneer in the patio furniture industry. “My father really enjoyed the people in the casual furniture industry,” he said.

“He liked that every year they came out with new and exciting design and new materials,” Rose said of her husband’s affinity for the casual furniture industry.

Viking soon established a reputation as a family-run business. In 1977, they moved to a storefront in Maple Shade, and in 1986 they moved to their current location on Route 70 in Cherry Hill. Viking Casual Furniture became the place to get top quality indoor and outdoor furniture in the Delaware Valley. Viking carries more than 50 brands and maintains a large warehouse to stock a large selection of dinettes, bars, barstools, rattan and outdoor furniture. Viking delivers throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Marvin Weiss didn't only sell furniture, though. He would also help immigrant families by picking up used furniture and bringing it to them in their homes. If a house burned down, Viking made a point of donating kitchen sets to those in need. "He had a big heart for Camden," Stuart said.

In addition to his wife and son, Weiss is survived by daughters Nancy Ann Aronson and Robin Lynn, and two grandchildren. Services were held Wednesday. For more, visit www.jfcssnj.org.

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